Books Forward April 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the April 2021 newsletter here!

What is a street team and how should I use it?

As an author, have you ever thought about just how great it would be if you had a network of friends you knew would be dedicated to helping you promote your book? Sound like a fantasy?

Enter the street team.

A street team is a group of readers that help you promote your book, usually the most loyal fans of your previous books, or books in similar genres.

The relationship built between author and team members is beneficial for both parties. Team members will have access to their favorite author (you!) as well as other exclusive content. And as an author, you’ll have a team dedicated to promoting your upcoming book by posting and talking about it to their network of followers and friends — building up buzz ahead of your book’s launch!

How to recruit team members

The first step after deciding to compose a street team is, of course, recruiting members. If this is your first time getting a team together, try and shoot for between 20-50 members initially. More is great! But keep in mind you’ll have to keep track of if everyone is doing their part and promoting on their end. Exclusivity also helps make everyone on the team feel more special as well. A fun way to cement that exclusivity: Consider coming up with a creative team name!

And remember, team members need to be active online. There will be opportunities to promote your book in person — like talking with a bookseller or book club — but word-of-mouth will be most effective online and on social media.

Where to find members

  • Reach out to friends and family who would be a good fit
  • Check in with any beta readers you may already have
  • Go through previous relationships with book bloggers and people who have previously reviewed your book
  • If you’re promoting the next book in a series or a book similar to a previous work, reach out to people who have positively reviewed your book on Goodreads, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc.
  • Announce in your mailing list, newsletter or on social media that you’re looking for team members

Have people fill out a Google Form so you can go through and pick who would be best for the team, or create a form/page on your website where they can enter info. Ask them things like what social media accounts they have, other books they’ve read in your book’s genre, any specific ideas for how they’d like to see your book promoted, etc. Consider keeping a tab on your website where people can request to join and you can consider building up your team for future books.

How to communicate with your team

So how do you keep track of communication with members once you’ve assembled your team? You’ll need to have an online space where all members can have access. Consider creating a private page on your website that only team members can access with a password. Or an easy option: Create a private Facebook page with just you and members — just make sure everyone in your team has a Facebook account!

Wherever you decide to keep team communication, you should make it a goal to post here regularly as well (we know, basically another social media platform!!). But interaction is important: It helps team members get to know you and vice versa. And it builds a great relationship with your team for future releases.

Notes on communication

  • Try and keep content focused around you and your book. After all, the goal of your street team is to promote your work!
  • Organize things like author interviews/takeovers with other authors to cross-promote and provide new content for your team members.
  • Make sure your team has access to any kind of promotional materials, both digital and physical. This could be bookmarks they can pass out to friends or flyers, stickers, buttons, etc. that they can drop off at local bookstores and libraries.
  • And again, exclusivity is important! When making announcements, make sure team members are one of the first — if not the first — group you reach out to and alert of something new. For instance, if you’re planning a cover reveal, your team should be able to see the cover before the general public.
  • You can also consider hosting a special launch event/party with just team members to celebrate all their hard work leading up to your book’s launch!

How to incentivize team members

It’s important to keep your team active and engaged during the book promotion process. The easiest way to do that is to create a challenge system where members must complete a task to receive a special reward, i.e.: After they post about the book on all their social media accounts, they’ll get a sneak peek of a future book excerpt. For bigger challenges/rewards, you can have drawings for prizes, i.e.: If someone gets a book club to read your book, they can be entered for a video chat session with you.

Potential rewards for your system

  • First access to any advance reader copies
  • Early access to extra written content like short stories, prequels,
  • Signed copies of books
  • If they aren’t already, consider allowing them to be beta readers for future novels
  • Sneak peeks at cover and title reveals, excerpts from future books etc.
  • Early and/or exclusive access to content on your author website or blog
  • Bonus book-related content like printable artworks, maps, bookmarks etc.
  • A video chat session with you (or potentially with an author friend as well if you’re working on cross-promoting!)
  • Promotion of your team members’ blogs and social media accounts on your own channels
  • A shoutout in the acknowledgements section of subsequent books

Potential challenges for members

  • Have them leave reviews of your book(s) on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, other bookseller sites, their own personal blogs, etc.
  • Posting Instagram photos (if you don’t already have a hashtag around your book/series, now would be a good time to think of one!)
  • If they have a blog, hosting you for an interview or guest post.
  • Sharing others’ reviews and social media posts about you and your books
  • Sharing your blog posts and reposting posts from your social media accounts
  • Posting shoutouts of you and your book on their own social media channels
  • Talking about and recommending your book(s) to their family members, friends, etc.
  • Requesting your book(s) at their local libraries and suggesting them to any book clubs

There’s no set limit on how often you dish out challenges and rewards, but weekly challenges are a good goal to shoot for. You want challenges to be often enough to keep members active and engaged, but you don’t want to give them too many challenges that they are overwhelmed. Being a team member should be fun — not a chore!

Organize your system in the beginning of your book promotion period so that as the weeks go on, all you have to do is keep track of if team members are completing the challenges. And don’t forget to let everyone know that the rewards are not the main purpose of the team: They’re a way of thanking team members. The goal is to get the word out about you and your book to new readers!

 

Books Forward March 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the March 2021 newsletter here!

Why are romance novels most commonly published in paperback?

Ever wonder why romance novels are always published in paperback? During quarantine, I’ve been reading a LOT of romance, and every time I get a new romance novel from the bookstore or a publisher, I noticed they’re always published as paperback. Typically, when a book is first published, they’re produced as hardcover. Hardcover books are more expensive, and can drive a higher profit for publishers in the first six months to a year of a book’s life. It’s after that point that publishers will continue printing the book, but in paperback.

But why is romance different? Why do these books begin their careers as paperback books as opposed to the more expensive and higher quality hardcover?

The short answer is DEMAND. Historically, romance has been the best-selling genre of books in existence. Of course, this fluctuates and changes, and in recent years, we’ve seen an increase in true crime and thriller genres — but from a standpoint of how the industry started, romance was always the highest in demand. Paperbacks are not only cheaper to produce, but they are also easier. So when romance novels were flying off of the shelves, it made sense to get them into the hands of readers as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.

Mass-market paperback novels are also extremely popular in the romance genre. Mass-market paperback novels are the kind you can find for $5 to $10 at airport, grocery stores, etc. They’re often much smaller and more compact than the average paperback. Perfect for tossing in your purse or on-the-go reading! I’ve bought them before simply because they’re the biggest bang for my buck, though admittedly they hurt my eyes!

Notice where they are sold … they’re sold in places that are most convenient to their target audience; middle-aged women. They’re also sold at an affordable price that can act as an add on to any order. I’ve personally been guilty of adding one to my cart at Target simply because it didn’t make that big of a dent in the grocery list, and I doubted that my husband would even notice.

So there you have it; our consistent and constant demand of these spicy, salacious stories are what make them produced at such an affordable price, even right out of the gate. A huge thanks to the publishers for giving us fresh, affordable titles — we see you, and appreciate you for looking out for us and our grocery shopping!

Why it’s important to take a great author headshot

When releasing a book, there are a lot of moving pieces. Of course writing the book and marketing the book takes precedence, but a lot of smaller steps can be overlooked and may have a huge impact!

First impressions are everything. Especially in a digital world – our eyes naturally gravitate towards book covers, websites, social media platforms and the quality each of those possess. We often refer to the “restaurant” metaphor: If you have two restaurants side by side, one is empty, run down, dark lighting, unclear of what their menu will look like versus a full restaurant, well lit, bustling and beautiful restaurant – which one are you most likely to go into? Consider this when building your profile. Is your website warm and welcoming? Does it look like a real person or just advertisements? This way of thinking narrows right down to your author headshot. Did you scroll through the dark depths of your photo roll and pick a picture from 10 years ago? Is it blurry? Is your pet in it? These are all things you want to avoid when settling on an author headshot.

Photography can be expensive, but if you can get professional photos done, we highly recommend including this in your marketing budget. You can hire locally for headshots and press shots, and these photos will work for radio, newspaper, your press release and beyond. Having these photos can go a long way and will keep your brand looking professional.

If you are on a tight budget, there are options. You can hire a college student, somebody who is looking for experience in photography – perhaps they need for their final project and will take your headshots at no or low cost. Another option is asking a family member or friend to help you take photos. Most phones these days come with high quality cameras.

All you need is good lighting (natural lightning works best, or invest in a ring light – these are also great for Zoom interviews!) a plain background and the editing tool in your phone. Refrain from using filtered apps for your headshot, as these can really tamper with the quality of the image. Focus on slightly and subtly brightening and adding a little bit of contrast. And take multiple shots – you’ll want options to choose from! Don’t be shy to get the best author headshots you can to represent your book.

All in all, remember to be current and stay relevant. You are an author, and that needs to be clear and concise when people see your headshot on the back of your book and the front of your social media platforms. This is your business. It may be a small part of the bigger picture, but it’s an important one that will help sell your book.

What are bookplates, and do readers and authors use them?

What are bookplates and how can I use them?

 

Have you ever loaned someone a well-loved copy of your favorite book, only to never lay eyes on that book ever again? Have you decided that generosity is futile because no one understands the deep personal attachment you have with your books? Yeah, me too.

I still cringe when I think about loaning a friend my copy of “The Fault in Our Stars” in middle school. As I handed over the book, she asked me, Can I use highlighter in this? The audacity.

Well, bookplates were invented to solve this problem by documenting the personal relationship you have with your book and ensuring that everyone knows this book belongs to you. Are bookplates passive aggressive? Maybe, depending on who you ask.

But they can also be a fun way for an author to personalize their book for readers, even during a pandemic, and can create a unique experience that will leave them eagerly awaiting your next release.

A Brief History

A bookplate, sometimes called an ex libris plate, is a label that is affixed inside a book. Traditionally, bookplates were used to indicate ownership, and historians have found evidence of bookplates being used in Ancient Egypt and Europe during the Middle Ages. Prior to the advent of the printing press in the 15th-century, books were rare and extremely valuable, so it was important to mark ownership in case a book was lost or stolen–but whether or not a bookplate actually resulted in more books being returned to their owner is unknown.

It’s safe to say that early iterations of the bookplate were more practical than ornamental. Later on, however, these inscriptions developed into elaborate artistic expressions, as wealthy patrons commissioned designs from famous contemporary artists. Take a look at this bookplate designed by Albrecht Dürer (circa the late 15th or early 16th century) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/387572

Since bookplates were primarily used to reflect ownership, they often included a family crest or coat of arms. Artists sometimes inscribed these by hand or made a woodcut or engraving to transfer their designs, as Dürer is known for.

Nowadays, bookplates are usually affixed to the inside cover or front matter using a sticker or a stamp. Bookplates have also taken on a variety of uses. They are still widely used to indicate ownership, but they can also be used to display an author’s signature or otherwise personalize a book.

An Author’s Signature

Adding a signature to a book helps to bridge the gap between the author and the reader. The personal connections made during a book event or book signing can turn even a casual reader into a lifelong fan of an author’s work.

Although the current pandemic has halted many in-person gatherings, book signings have thankfully continued on through the use of bookplates!

Bookplates are a safe way for authors to send their signature to anyone, from booksellers to fans, while abiding by social distancing measures. If you can’t meet someone in person to sign their book, sending a signed bookplate their way is a great alternative.

An author might also choose to sign bookplates for efficiency if they are signing a number of books all at once for a bookstore, book club, or other large event.

Here are some examples of authors using bookplates in recent months (be sure to follow each of these authors on Twitter for more updates!)

Sara Sligar: https://twitter.com/saraxsligar/status/1264245770582028289

Maggie Stiefvater: https://twitter.com/mstiefvater/status/1361431121486114819

Adam Silvera: https://twitter.com/AdamSilvera/status/1361392998496440322

Publicity Plan

At this point, you may be wondering, how can bookplates become a part of my publicity plan? When do I use them and who should I send them to?

Bookplates are especially useful when paired with virtual events. You can offer to send signed bookplates to a bookstore in advance of an event, ensuring that each attendee has access to a signed copy.

Not only does this benefit attendees who now have access to personalized books, but this also helps build a good relationship with your local bookseller. Bookplates can be used as an incentive to encourage attendees to buy their books from their local store instead of from Amazon, in the spirit of a shop-local campaign!

You can also offer to send signed bookplates as a free gift for fans who pre-order a copy of the book. Ask fans to DM or email their receipt to you, and then mail them a bookplate with a personal note thanking them for their support.

Additionally, bookplates can be used as an exclusive perk for a giveaway. A bookplate giveaway can be held in conjunction with a virtual event or on social media, just for fun!

Get Creative!

Although traditionally bookplates have been used in a limited number of ways, the possibilities are truly endless. There are plenty of unexpected ways to personalize books for readers, and to make your book stand out from the crowd.

Some authors, like David Sedaris, add drawings or sketches to accompany their signature. These drawings often relate to a specific meaning within the book, operating like an inside joke or a teaser for what’s to come.

Another author recently took this idea and turned it up a few notches. Will Maclean, author of “The Apparition Phase” created a unique and memorable publicity campaign by personalizing copies of his book in a way no one has seen before.

Maclean signed 1000 copies of his book, but made things a bit more interesting by “hiding” a 1000-word short story within these copies. Each book contained one word from the story, as well as a number (ranging from 1 to 1000) indicating its position within the story. When all 1000 words are arranged in the correct order, the short story will be revealed.

This tactic turned readers into eager detectives, hoping to string all the words together. Fans flocked to Twitter, sharing each word that was included within their signed copy and keeping track of progress. 

https://twitter.com/lovedreadinthis/status/1331611138711285760

At the end of the day, bookplates are all about showing readers and booksellers that you care. They help to create a heartfelt memory for the reader which will have them reluctant to loan their copy of your book out to anyone – even their closest friends!

 

What are reader newsletters and how can they help me?

Authors are always trying to find new ways to reach readers and get their book to as many people as possible. There are a lot of ways to achieve this, but one of the more successful strategies is by submitting for reader newsletters.

So, what are reader newsletters?

Reader newsletters are essentially tools for book promotion. They are free to readers, and publishers or authors pay to have their book included. A newsletter is sent out to subscribers advertising books that are on sale, or even free, for a limited time.

The cost to have your book included varies based on the newsletter but it can range from around ten dollars to hundreds of dollars. This usually has to do with the audience you are reaching. 

These newsletters are all about offering bargains for their subscribers, which means that to run a book promotion through them, you usually drop your e-book price between $0-$3.99 for 3-5 days. This is what draws readers in to buying your book. 

It is a great way to gain exposure and get some sales. Often these promotions increase your standing in Amazon rankings, which also gets your book seen by more people. 

Many newsletters allow you to target a specific genre which means that the people seeing your book in the newsletter are the type of person who is most likely to buy your book.

It is important, however, to try and pick newsletters that often see good results. You ideally want to generate at least enough sales to pay for the promotion.

So, what are some of the best ones?

We submit for a full range of newsletters and the best ones do depend on genre and other factors, but here are some of my top recommendations.

  1. Bookbub: This always gets great results, but it is pretty pricey (can cost thousands of dollars), and they only accept 10-15% of the books that are submitted. If you are selected, it is a great opportunity and usually is one that recoups the money spent on the promotion itself. Just be aware that you may have to submit multiple times before you are selected.
  2. Bargain Booksy: This ranges from $10-$95 depending on the genre and is easy to submit for.
  3. Fussy Librarian: Easy to submit for, ranges from $10-$30 depending on genre.
  4. Book Lemur: I don’t just love it for the fun name, but it is a plus. This newsletter costs anywhere from $25-$55 depending on price drop price point and genre. They are easy to submit for and are very communicative if there is ever a problem.
  5. Just Kindle: This is a great one that is set at $43. There is no waiting around to get approved for this one. Everything is quick, and your newsletter ad is scheduled before you leave the website.

There are many newsletters out there and they all have benefits!

So, what do you need in order to submit for them?

Each website is a little different in the information needed to book an ad. Here are some of the things that are often required:

  • Title of the book and author name
  • Email
  • Original price point and discounted price during the dates selected
  • ASIN
  • Book cover image
  • Short description of book (Pay attention to character count required on each site)
  • Author bio
  • Number of ratings/star rating
  • Dates of price drop
  • Date you want the ad to run

Some newsletters require all of that information while others only want a subset. It is important to have these things on hand so that the submission process can be quick.

So, is it worth it?

Reader newsletters can be extremely beneficial in getting your book on the radar of a new set of people. Having these ads go out to people who love your genre can boost sales and your ranking on Amazon. As an author, exposure is likely one of your top priorities. Running these ads and these discounts is a perfect way to catch the reader’s eye. This is a low time commitment way to see maximum results.

 

Books Forward February 2021 Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter featuring our award-winning authors and industry news. This issue features upcoming book releases, recent media coverage and much more!

Read the February 2021 newsletter here!

Influencer Marketing Tips and Tricks for Authors

The term “social media influencer” comes up often these days, though it is vague and meaningless to some people. Books Forward is here to help you find out who these people are, and how you both can work together!

Who are influencers?

Influencers are people who have a decent following on social media, full of an audience of people who are specifically interested in the influencer’s opinions on whatever topics or items it is they discuss. Some influencers are “fitness gurus” who post videos of workout plans, their healthy eating habits and fitness clothing brands they prefer. Other influencers post makeup tutorials and makeup brand preferences. In the book world, there is an entire community of influencers who make posts that center around books they love, books they are reading, books they are planning to read, books they bought six months ago but still haven’t had a chance to pick up, books with beautiful covers, books with sad endings. . . do you see the theme here? There is an entire social media world out there that focuses specifically on books. As an author searching for an audience, it is crucial and beneficial to tap into that!

What do influencers do?

All of the posts that influencers make on social media build their reputation on their platform. Twitter’s #BookTwitter, TikTok’s #Booktok, Youtube’s “Booktube” and Instagram’s “Bookstagram” accounts are popular platforms for booklovers to unite and discuss everything that is books. Twitter is a place where people typically discuss in-depth themes of books, while TikTok features aesthetically pleasing videos of bookshelves with books arranged by color, or book challengers for people to complete together. Youtube is a great place to find people talking through book reviews, and Bookstagram has beautiful, artsy pictures of books with thoughtful captions about the books featured.

Influencers with a large following are often sent book after book from many different publishers, so the books they decide are good enough to read, or have an attractive enough cover to post, hold significant value in the book world. However, large accounts can also be deceiving. Sometimes, sending your book to an account with a smaller following will garner just as many audience members because of engagement of posts and thoughtfulness in posts. People like to get an opinion on a book from somebody they trust, and when a well-respected influencer gives a raving review about a book on their account, it immediately gains leverage.

What Does This Mean for Authors?

This is the most important question, right? Why does this entire “book world” on social media matter? It just sounds like an outlet for people who are obsessed with reading, right? Well, that is right, and that is also why it is important for authors. Just like us, a lot of these influencers have their specific preferences. Maybe there’s one who LOVES historical fiction novels, or YA romance novels. If you are releasing your debut YA romance novel and manage to get an influencer to read and review your book positively, you now have a significant following of people listening. About YOUR book. Even if you only get the influencer to post a picture of your book, saying they are excited to read it, it gets your book in front of people who are potentially interested. You are tapping into a niche audience that was basically formulated for books like yours!

A lot of the time, influencers will be perfectly happy with a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. A lot of bookstagrammers don’t post negative reviews so it depends on who you reach out to, but you basically send them the book for a post on their story, or a picture on their feed. Also they aren’t sent as many books as the bigger accounts and can be more thoughtful with posts.

Common Misconceptions

It is not always about the number of followers that a bookstagrammer has. If you get an influencer who has 100k followers to read your post your book, but your book is YA and the influencer prefers mystery books, the audience receiving the message is targeted to people who might not be interested in your book. It is best to find an influencer who’s brand lines up with yours, because the people representing your book are a reflection of it. You want people who support and appreciate your work as an author and your book’s genre. Accounts with smaller followings should not be cast aside because of their size; these accounts may look smaller but could have a high engagement level! This is something you should always consider when picking influencers to work with. Smaller accounts also don’t have as many books coming their way, and the chance of getting a review or post from them is higher. Reach out to a variety of followings, and focus on the branding of the individual influencer.

 

Building a world based on kindness, joy, and writing

This, as we all know, has been a hell of a year. But one thing this year has brought us is the opportunity to create new systems and build the world we want. For much of my life, I’ve been trying to do just that. I even gave my world a name: LoriLand. When things in the “real” world frustrated me, I would declare, “Well, in LoriLand, teachers and artists make the most money,” or, “In LoriLand, critical thinking and empathy are part of every core curriculum.” (Sometimes I would get asked pesky questions such as, “Who makes all the judgment calls?” To which I would answer, “Me! It’s called LoriLand, after all.”)

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that kindness, happiness and the arts are some of the things I care about the most. At the end of 2017, as a way to see if anyone else was interested in a mash-up of these three things, I came up with the idea of the 30-Day Writers Happiness Challenge: 30 days of daily, five-minute happiness prompts for writers. I put up a Facebook post, added a page to my website, and waited to see what would happen. And within two weeks, with nearly zero promotion, 500 writers from around the world had signed up.

Turns out it wasn’t just me who cared about this. It was a lot of us.

With this in mind, the Writers Happiness Movement was launched earlier this year. It’s based on two unwavering beliefs: that kindness, inclusion and joy matter and that the written word is one of the most powerful ways to promote courage, empathy and ferocity of the heart. The idea of the movement is to create more happiness for each individual writer, while making the world a better place for all writers.

Here’s how it works: The Writers Happiness Movement offers a plethora of free happiness tools created specifically for writers, all open to everyone without cost. These tools are designed to help writers access more joy, more writing time, and more spaciousness for and around our writing and our lives. They include online writing retreats, online yoga/meditation/breathwork for writers, and weekly 5-minute Writers Happiness exercises. Over a thousand writers have participated in these so far! There also are microgrants, little infusions of cash meant to cheer a writer on. Two of these tiny grants, currently $25 each, go out monthly to writers nominated by a friend. The only requirements are that the nominee has to be some kind of writer and also has to be someone you think is a good person. If you want to nominate someone, you can do so here.

As the movement grows, there will be larger grants, residencies, fellowships, and — the big goal — retirement homes and co-living spaces that are free to writers, completely paid for by the Writers Happiness Movement.

How is this funded, you might ask? Well, it’s LoriLand, so it’s funded in a way that I think is healthy for humans and the planet: through an alternative, community-based, open-handed economic structure that has kindness and equity at its root. While all the happiness tools are free to everyone, if someone would like and is able to, they can become a patron of Writers Happiness at $5/month. This funds the programs that require money. Becoming a patron of Writers Happiness is similar to becoming a patron of an individual artist, except that instead of supporting one writer so that writer can keep creating, you’re supporting programs designed to build a world where all writers can keep creating.

This is meant to be both a revolution and a refuge. There’s nothing you have to do to be part of the Writers Happiness Movement, other than be who you are and write what you write (and sign up for it, of course). Because who you are and what you write are exactly what our world needs.

There are so many people right now consciously choosing kindness over fear. Choosing love over anger. Choosing to write and create even if it sometimes seems impossible. This is a home for all of us.

Let’s rewrite the world, one writer at a time.

Author Bio: Lori Snyder is the founder of the Writers Happiness Movement. She’s also a writer, a long-time yoga teacher, leader of the Splendid Mola Writing Retreats, and a great fan of all things gritty and glittery at the same time. Her debut middle grade fantasy, “The Circus at the End of the Sea” — which is her love letter to delight, the ocean, and Venice, California — is out with HarperCollins in fall 2021. You can find her, and the Writers Happiness Movement, at www.writershappiness.com.